Forget Jailbreaking, Cloud Services Are What Are Building A Usable File System For iOS

Forget Jailbreaking, Cloud Services Are What Are Building A Usable File System For iOS

Could/developer partnerships fill the file management void in iOS

It seems that every week for the past few months, there’s been at least one or two announcements of app developers, cloud service providers, and mobile management vendors developing strategic partnerships to create or integrate their products into a single unified workflow.

Box’s OneCloud initiative, in which the storage provider teamed up with more than two dozen app developers to create seamless workflows for several different business and productivity tasks, is probably the biggest example of this trend. Others include Quickoffice launching its own cloud service as well as integrating with Accellion’s kitedrive, LogMeIn’s new Cubby service, and CloudOn’s virtualized version of Microsoft Office that integrates with Box and Dropbox for storage.

All these partnerships are getting positive responses for one very good reason. They’re effectively creating file managers like the OS X Finder or Windows Explorer and offering users a truly functional file system – something Apple has been refusing to provide since the iPhone was announced five years ago.

Apple has always been of the opinion that we shouldn’t have any need to manage files on an iPhone or iPad the way that we do on a Mac or PC. Instead we should simply work with data or files through the app that created them in much the same that we organize photos in iPhoto or music, TV shows, and movies in iTunes.

That sounds like a nice idea and, in some situations, it works well. It doesn’t really matter to me how or where my various Newsstand-enabled apps store the content of their issues so long as I can read them, for example. The same goes for iBooks – so long as I can read highlight passages, and make notes and trust that iCloud will sync those notes or where I left off reading between my iPad and iPhone, I don’t need to be concerned with ePUB files and how or where they’re stored on either device.

But that effortless experience breaks down for certain types of use – such as creating and organizing content, particularly if I need to share that content with others or access/edit the related files on the iMac in my office. Around this type or use, the iOS method of associating files with apps becomes a drawback. Even for data stored just on my iPad, it can be challenging if I want to work with the same file in more than one app. Apple’s method of transferring files using iTunes is, of course, an option – but that’s one clunky user interface that is far from intuitive or seamless. And Apple’s passion and success in creating  seamless end-to-end user experience makes this clumsy solution stick out like a sore thumb.

Avoiding these issues is why most productivity and business developers build in access to various personal cloud services and/or create cloud services of their own. It makes working with and organizing files a much more fluid and streamlined process – particularly for services that automatically sync with your Mac, PC, or other devices. It’s no wonder that so many companies are willing to be part of Box’s OneCloud and to develop similar arrangements.

These partnerships truly represent third-party companies fixing what many consider a deficiency in iOS – the ability to work with files the way we’re used to working with them on almost every other device. The fact that cloud services can also offer additional benefits like document versioning, backup, collaboration with other users, and even security if documents aren’t synced onto an iOS device itself.

Unfortunately, it seems that Apple is unlikely to change its mind when it comes iOS file management. Mountain Lion certainly seems destined to build this iOS model out even further using iCloud. Whatever road Apple does take with respect to iOS file storage and sharing, at least there are companies offering alternative solutions for those that want something more or different.

Related
  • Lane Jasper

    I’m not seeing how any of this is warranting a “forget jailbreaking” in the headline…..Jailbreaking is very little a point of any of the topic discussed here whatsoever.

  • mr_bee

    You realise this makes no sense right?

    You are arguing that Apple is wrong to not include a file system, that instead it want’s you to use iCloud instead, but also that this awful situation is going to be fixed by “third parties” who will use a … wait for it …. cloud service, (!) to fix this.

    WTF?

    How is iCloud, (Apple’s cloud file system), not exactly the same thing? Obviously there are differences between cloud services and so forth and the “third party” ones might be better in your opinion, but in fact you didn’t actually make that argument.

  • Kingsmuse

    Drop Box solved this problem for me long ago.

    To answer the question of how iCloud isn`t the same thing is simple, iCloud is just like IOS in general, it does all the work, there`s no way to actually manipulate, move, or organize files.

    I`m an Apple fan but they`re really missing the boat with their intent to destroy the file system.

  • Frank Lowney

    The other important aspect of this discussion has to do with sharing those files with all the world or a definable subset of the population. MobileMe and iWork.com provided some very nice ways of sharing photos (Gallery), documents (iWork) and other files (iDisk) but iCloud has no such capability. It’s as if Apple is assuming that we are all egomaniacs who have no desire to share anything. That doesn’t sound like a very perceptive point of view to me.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

(sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)| Read more posts by .

Posted in News | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |